by David Cohen

There’s something about getting to the top of any building that brings you a natural high that just doesn’t go away.  Delicious  cocktails, a pool,  music, sun-fueled and chill-out leisure time, or incredible city views are only some of the amazing pleasures these Designer Hotel rooftops offer any traveler. 

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Located in one of the most glamorous spots on the Cote d’Azur – behind the famous Croisette in Cannes, France, the FIVE HOTEL & SPA exudes sophisticated charm and spirit. Taking inspiration from five continents, artisans from around the globe were commissioned to create luxurious handcrafted furniture for this 45-room hotel. The rooftop offers guests one of the best views of the old city. The Zen pool, a stainless steel pool is complemented by a blonde cumaru deck with big comfy day beds, turquoise walls, and three waterfalls. To satisfy your hunger, try some delicacies created by Jacques and Laurent Pourcel at the Sea Sens restaurant on site.
 
Top Left: It’s not often that the exterior of a hotel steals the show, but exactly the case when it comes to Hotel Omm, in Barcelona, Spain. The unusual limestone façade of the hotel is a work of art. Inside the hotel, the design of simple lines, natural materials, and fine balance of colors and volumes, provide a calm backdrop to the futuristic lighting fixtures. The rooms themselves looks like pages in a book about to be revealed. The swimming pool and solarium on the roof are made from dark wood, creating a natural atmosphere. The drama is created by the fantastic panoramic view of the Sagrada Familia and Casa Milá. During the summer evenings, cocktails and tapas are served a la Barcelona style by the poolside. Guests can enjoy special performances and treats during the Hotel Terrace Week each June, and Moet & Chandon champagne always host parties on special dates through the summer!

Top Right: Located in the heart of the market, The Great Getaway Medina is the perfect picture during a trip to the exotic city of Marrakech, known as the "Ochre City" in Morocco, Africa. This intimate six-room hotel offers a magical experience from the moment you enter. The grand circular courtyard with high columns and arches are full of jeweled stones walls, along with intricately detailed handcrafted wood furniture that furnish the entire hotel.. With magnificent views of the ornate historic old city and the Atlas Mountains, the roof is Aladdin’s fairy tale paradise. The aroma of spices coming from the grill on the roof will make you hungry for the Moroccan specialties offered, including kebabs, fresh seafood, beef with dried plums, and home style terrines. 

Bottom: The Mamilla Hotel offers a unique designer comfort gate-a-way in the old city of Jerusalem in Israel. Combining the genius of internationally renowned architect Moshe Safdie, and interior designer Piero Lissoni, the result is a striking. A modern design combining old Jerusalem stones, a dramatic floating metal staircase, glass and steel ceilings all achieving a minimalistic esthetic contemporary design. The outdoor lounge and restaurant on the rooftop offer an inspiring view of the Old City. Guests can enjoy the comfortable seating while having a drink at the elegent wood paneled bar. This comfort extends into the Mamilla Café, where the informal dining area includes a long Carrera marble table and sofas at the elegant shaded terrace lounge. 

 
 
by Kraig Smith

Company examines nearly 1,000 keyword search terms to spot consumer travel trends

The summer travel season is almost here and digital marketing intelligence provider AdGooroo  knows where Americans will be going. Namely, Las Vegas and Disney. In an analysis of nearly 1,000 travel-related keywords searched an estimated 2.4 billion times on Google during January and February 2012, AdGooroo found Disney accounted for 7.3 percent of all travel-related searches followed by Las Vegas at 6.3 percent, placing these two vacation destinations ahead of all others explored by online searchers, followed by Florida (5.7 percent), the Caribbean (3.2 percent), Mexico (2.1 percent) and Hawaii (1.1 percent).

The study was conducted using AdGooroo’s Industry Insight search marketing dashboard, which measures search data for more than 160 industries as well as virtually any advertiser.

The overall most popular travel topic searched was not destinations, however, but transportation (airlines, trains, auto rentals) at 33.6 percent of all searches, and lodging/hotels at 21.3 percent, suggesting Americans may already have a good idea where they are going this summer but need to find out how they will get there and where they will stay. The next most popular travel topics were destinations (17.7 percent), ticketed attractions (10.8 percent), cruises (9.1 percent), booking sites (3.6 percent) and travel packages (3.1 percent).

Among all travel topics, keywords focused on travel packages recorded the highest clickthrough rate, 9.8 percent. Keyword searches related to booking sites such as Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity generated the lowest clickthrough rate at 2.7 percent.

As evidence of a still-sluggish economy, the study found significant bargain-hunting activity, with 13.3 percent of total travel-related searches containing words such as coupon, discount, cheap, low-price and deal.

“Travel is one of the most keyword-competitive industries,” said Richard Stokes, founder and CEO of AdGooroo. “So it represents fertile ground for search marketers in the travel category to apply Industry Insight and deepen their understanding both of their marketplace and the competitive landscape.”

For additional insight into the study, read an in-depth analysis by AdGooroo’s senior vice president of research and analytics, Gregg Hamilton.

For more information, visit AdGooroo.com.

 
 
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Have you ever wonder where you might find a little piece of Versailles in the USA?  The answer will consistently be the Belvedere Inn in Saugatuck, Michigan. 

Tucked far off the main street of downtown, situated at the end of the road on the northern edge of Saugatuck, Michigan, sits an elegant 98-year-old mansion. Here, former Chicago couple Shaun Glynn and Pete Ta have reinvented the meaning of what a Bed & Breakfast is. 

Shaun and Pete met in the late ’90s at Big Chicks, a gay bar on Chicago’s north side. In 2003, the couple decided to give up their comfortable and successful corporate careers and sell their home in Bucktown. The couple borrowed money from the bank, and with the help of the former owner of the B&B, began to peruse their dream as the new owners of the Belvedere Inn.
   
As an accomplished European Executive Chef, Shaun left Galway, Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1998.  He earned top positions at some of the most prestigious companies in the hospitality and catering field. 

In 1975, Pete immigrated to the United States from Saigon, Vietnam and has since earned an excellent reputation in the world of finance and investment.  In 1999, he began working in the Information Technology (IT) field, becoming one of the top specialist in the field. 

"We are both very different individuals with different skills and experiences, but with one common goal," Pete said during my interview in March at the Inn. 

Together, Shaun and Pete combined their skills and started implementing their ideas to transform the old 10 guest room B&B into a comfortable and casually elegant mini boutique hotel. Their combined experiences and efforts paid off.  In 2004, The Belvedere Inn was named the top B&B in Western Michigan; and in Saugatuck it was named the best gay travel destination in the Midwest.

As one of the best restaurant in Michigan, the Belvedere Restaurant offers a wonderful gourmet dining experience. The four-course ­­­­­­ is a great value and provides delicious selections for each course. The restaurant is open to both guests and the public. 

Whether your visit is a romantic getaway, a mini vacation with friends, a celebration, or a gay wedding destination, The Belvedere Inn is always the perfect choice for your travel needs or event. It’s no wonder The Belvedere Inn is referred to as "A Little Piece of Versailles."

For more information or reservations go to www.thebelvedereinn.com.
   
Chef Shaun was delighted to offer PINK readers one of the guests’ favorite  recipes Crispy Garlic Sippets (Garlic Bread), along with the house specialty, Mussels in Pernod Cream (see above). Enjoy!

 
 
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Photo courtesey of Villa Encantada.
by David Cohen

Located in the scenic hills of Amapas/Conchas Chinas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Villa Encantada provides a vacation setting where paradise is found all year ‘round. Within a few minutes of downtown, the Amapas/Conchas Chinas area is considered by many to be the Beverly Hills of Puerto Vallarta.

Designed by one of the most well-known and respected architect in Puerto Vallarta,  Arturo Ramos grew up in a small town called Mascota just 15 miles from downtown Puerto Vallarta. As a young boy, he already was interested in studying the architectural features of buildings. “As I grew older, I saw architecture as means to be involved in a highly creative profession for my life’s work” says Ramos. The clean lines and dramatic open spaces of the Villa are strong evidence of his work and follow the wishes of his clients who wanted a high quality Villa that reflected native architecture. To that end, Ramos chose a Spanish Colonial approach to offer guests the opportunity to experience an environment or culture different than their own. It was Ramos’s reputation that convinced his clients to contract him to design the Villa.

Ramos chose to use primary elements for the design, like cantera stone for the floors, columns and balustrades; for the windows, doors and cabinets he used rich parota hardwood that is native to Mexico. It is evident that there was a concerted effort to repeat colors and materials throughout the grand interiors to increase the feeling of visual spaciousness.

In Spanish, Villa Encantada means enchanted and it lives up to its name in providing so many luxurious amenities. With spacious 5,000-square feet of luxury, 5 bedrooms with private bathrooms, many terraces, a solar-heated swimming pool, spa tub, spectacular décor, beautiful original art works ... the list never ends. The art displayed in the Villa was chosen not only for its design and color, but for sentiment as well. The many blown art glass bowls, plates and vases are from Tonala, an artisan community outside of Guadalajara.

A stay at the Villa is designed to ensure a totally relaxed atmosphere. On-site service includes a maid, a chef and a houseboy. You won’t need to do a thing. No cooking, no grocery shopping, nothing. Simply just sit by the pool, relax and enjoy the sun and the air. I couldn’t resist doing watercolors by the pool. By painting, I not only relaxed but I had fun doing it.

In the evening you must dine outside on one of the terraces or by the pool, feel the soft ocean breeze and enjoy the lush tropical jungle landscaping. The breathtaking views of Puerto Vallarta’s famous Banderas Bay are magnificent, especially with a margarita or tropical drink in your hand--one made by a member of the staff. This enchanted house truly offers vacationers the life style of the rich and famous.

If you decide to go into town (and believe me it will be difficult to leave the Villa), Puerto Vallarta has a lot to offer. There are many great restaurants, lots of shopping and fun gay nightlife. Romantic walks on the beach are good idea for couples, but whale watching is the ultimate experience as you watch the great beasts migrate to the Sea of Cortez. No wonder why Puerto Vallarta is one of the most popular resort destinations in the world. 

Villa Encantada is available for rental year ‘round: for reservation visit www.villaencantada.com. To find out more about gay life go to: www.discoveryvallarta.com, www.gayguidevallarta.com/Daylife or www.discoveryvallarta.com. For Information on traveling to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, visit www.visitmexico.com.
 
 
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by David Cohen
Colors, adventure and energy… these are some of the qualities one encounters when visiting South Africa. From incredible wildlife and astounding scenery to thriving cities, South Africa has it all. South Africa’s complexity emerged from Dutch and British colonial history, internal warfare, and decades of struggle to become a modern democracy. In 1652, Jan Riebeeck arrived in the Cape to establish a station for the powerful Dutch East India Company, importers of slaves from all parts of Africa.

Years later riots and violence against the colonial rule caused the weakening of the Dutch power and finally, the British seized the Cape in 1795. In 1994 after decades of apartheid rule, Nelson Mandela become the first president of a fully democratic South Africa. Eight journalists left New York City on a direct flight to Johannesburg on South Africa Airlines, and although we were excited about the trip, the airline’s economy class is intolerable for a 15-hour flight. Our first stop was Sun City, two-and-a-half hours outside Johannesburg. This over-the-top resort, with its Las Vegas-style entertainment and man-made beach, is the entertainment capital of the Northwest province.

At Sun City we stayed at the Palace, a luxurious 5 star hotel with overly lavish accommodations–we would have preferred something a bit more subtle.The Pilanesberg Game Reserve, adjacent to Sun City, lies in an extinct volcanic mountain and is the largest game reserve in South Africa and the best place to witness the most spectacular wildlife in the region. Wild animals seen frolicking here include white and black rhinos, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, elephants, lions, water buffaloes, hippopotamuses, and many bird species. But the day’s highlight was only ten minutes away from the hotel at the Sundown Ranch, where we held a lion cub–one of the trip’s most unforgettable moments.

The safari continued with a visit to Makweti & Metsi lodges in the Welgevonden area (both Welgevonden and Pilanesberg are malaria-free). Only three hours away from Sun City, these lodges are elegant and beautifully designed and maintained. Our friendly and knowledgeable ranger, Wayne, made our stay memorable. In his open Land Rover we drove up and down rocky hills and over creeks, experiencing the flora and fauna of mother Africa. Here we searched for lions and enjoyed a night safari. To add to the ambience of the evening, the crew surprised us with a picnic in the wilderness, where we witnessed a colorful sunset. Sipping champagne and eating hors d’oeuvres in the wild was an unforgettable treat–and hearing the sounds of animals nearby made the experience even more exhilarating.

From Makweti & Metsi Lodges the tour continued northeast toward the famous Kruger National Park, where heat and humidity are as common as the blue sky. At this prime attraction you can sit and watch the wildlife from the privacy of your own room. Imagine watching the first unsteady steps of a lion cub or listening to the joyful calls of birds seeking mates or watching monkeys fighting among themselves– all from the luxury of your personal lodge. Here you’ll be pampered with every comfort imaginable and have the finest cuisine delivered to your doorstep or prepared and served for you in the wild.

At Mala Mala and Singita Game Reserves located inside the Sabi Sand Reserve near Kruger National Park, miracles really do came true. These resorts are first-class and offer luxury accommodations with a distinctly African style. One night at Mala Mala we tracked a family of leopards that seemed unconcerned by our proximity.

After a week on safari we flew to Cape Town, the gay mecca of South Africa. This hot destination is one of the most visited spots in South Africa, even when the sun isn’t shining. Cradled between the mountains and the sea, Cape Town attractions include beautiful sandy beaches, wine country, botanical gardens, museums, shopping, and more. A cable ride to the top of  Table Mountain is a must. Named for its flat top, this mountain dominates the city’s skyline. From the top you can witness some of the best views of Cape Town and the peninsula. Visiting wine country is also required.

Over the past 10 years South Africa’s wine industry has experienced a renaissance, and their wines are among the most popular in the New World. A full day trip to wine country is recommended.Other places to visit are Cape Point, a cruise to Seal Island (a seal preserve), a trip to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for over 25 years, and the Castle of Good Hope.

We stayed at the Table Bay Hotel, a 5-star hotel on the stunning waterfront that is only minutes away from the gay village, Cape Town’s Boystown. The De Waterkant Village apartments–a complex of 60 beautiful restored historic cottages in the heart of the gay village–is another place where you can enjoy the privacy of home. Within walking distance to clubs, bars, bathhouses, restaurants, and shops, this village is the place where people meet to play day and night.Planning to explore the nightlife? We recommend some of the following spots. If dancing is what you want, then 55 is the stop for you–this club opens late and has a friendly crowd. Bronx is the most popular bar in the village, and is mixed, crowded and interesting. If a sophisticated atmosphere is important then Manhattan Café and Bar is the place to go. For steamy action go to the Hothouse or Steamers. Both bathhouses are open 24 hours on the weekends. Another spot to check out, especially on Sundays, is Clifton 3rd–the gay beach where you can mingle with locals.

DavidTours arranged dinner at Rozenhof restaurant where we dined with many of David Rubin’s (the owner of DavidTours) friends. We also were invited to a Sunday afternoon cocktail party at his friends’ mountaintop home, where the view of the peninsula was spectacular. Due to Cape Town’s high crime rate, caution is highly recommended here, and taking a taxi from one spot to another is a way of life. Make sure to call a taxi from inside an establishment, and never pick up a cab at the street corner.

From Cape Town we flew to Zambia to visit Victoria Falls–one of the world’s largest and most beautiful waterfalls. Nearby, at the Royal Livingston Hotel we treated ourselves to massages and were able to enjoy some rest and relaxation. At night we cruised the Zambezi River aboard the African Queen, where we witnessed a remarkable sunset with colors that reminded me of a Gaugin painting. The river was crowded with hippopotamuses and crocodiles. The following day we took a helicopter ride to see breathtaking Victoria Falls from above–Incredible! Unfortunately, three years of drought made the walking tour of the falls a bit disappointing.

From Zambia the tour traveled to Johannesburg. At night we dined with Rubin’s friends again. After dinner we visited the Heartland, a complex of gay bars which lacked the energy of metropolitan clubs and discos in the United States and Europe. After spending the final night of the tour at the Grace Hotel in Rosebank, an affluent suburb, we spent our last day bargain hunting at the Mall at Rosebank–the Mall’s African craft market has all your gift and souvenir needs.

South Africa’s diverse population, wonderful wildlife, and rich culture offer the traveler an unforgettable experience. Many thanks to DavidTours the organizer, and to our tour guide Christian who made our trip memorable.

To learn more about Africa call DavidTours at (888) 723-0699 or visit their website at www.DavidTours.com.

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Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

More than 35,000 LGBT customers have signed letter asking them to stop advertising on Fox News; thousands are flocking to Orbitz’s Facebook wall vowing to boycott the online travel agency.

Orbitz may end up losing thousands of customers and revenue because they refuse to stop advertising on Fox News, progressive grassroots organization Courage Campaign said today.In less than four days, more than 35,000 individuals have signed a letter to Orbitz CEO Barney Harford asking him to stop placing travel ads on the anti-gay television network. As of this press release, 1,352 customers have also taken to Orbitz’s Facebook wall to inform them that they will not be using Orbitz to book their travel until they stop.The Courage Campaign, along with Media Matters for America, GLAAD and Equality Matters, launched the campaign on Monday. Orbitz’s travel site, which previously was a strong supporter of and marketer to the LGBT community, has generated strong business growth for Orbitz. “It’s hypocritical to cater to our community, take our money and then turn around and give it to Fox so the network can broadcast lies about LGBT people and our issues,” said Adam BinkDirector of Online Programs for the Courage Campaign. “If Orbitz wants to maintain a gay-friendly image and keep their loyal customers, they should reconsider where they are buying ads because as you can see by some of these Facebook posts, folks are very angry that their money is being used to promote hate. “If you have a ‘strict policy of tolerance and non-discrimination’ then why advertise on a network that blatantly and regularly attacks the gay community?” Rick Jacobsfounder and chair of the Courage Campaign, asked of Orbitz. 
An average of 52 messages per hour are being posted on Orbitz’s Facebook page. Adiva Wayne, a national and international traveler who’s been a longtime Orbitz customer, posted on Facebook: “I will no longer be using Orbitz for bookings. If Orbitz wishes to choose Fox “News” hatred over previously loyal customers (while portraying itself as an LGTB-friendly company, considering other adverts), it can stand to lose the millions of dollars in business. ”David B. Karpf, another former loyal customer in Maryland, said: “I will not use Orbitz in the future as long as they advertise on the Fox News Network, and their advertising dollars support the bigoted, racist, homophobic views and outright lies and pandering espoused by most of the Fox commentators.”The Courage Campaign is taking these actions because we are frankly tired of this station’s history of destructive anti-gay language and actions, including: 
1. Giving Mike Huckabee his own show despite Huckabee’s history of comparing homosexuality to drug abuse, incest, pedophilia, and necrophilia. Huckabee has repeatedly used his Fox platform to campaign against gay marriage, and he has suggested that marriage equality poses a threat to stable society. 
2. Bill O’ Reilly repeatedly using his popular prime time show to warn against the “dangers” of allowing gay people near children, to assert that same-sex marriage could lead to polygamy, nuptials with turtles, ducks or dolphins, and to claim that implementing a hate crimes bill could protect pedophiles. 
3. Perpetuating the claim that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would impact troop readiness and morale, despite multiple reports — including the Pentagon’s — to the contrary.It’s time Orbitz paid attention to what they are hurting.

Source: http://www.couragecampaign. org/testimony.
 
 
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‘Like Us' on Facebook – 'Follow Us' on Twitter for a chance to win a trip for two to Toronto Canada.* 

by David Cohen

Every year during Fourth of July WeekendToronto puts on one of the biggest Pride celebrations in the world.  With over one million people attending the festivities, Toronto Pride weekend exceeded all of my expectations. On my last visit to Toronto, I had the best time of my life.  People in Toronto are friendly and  they make you feel at home, and will make your stay enjoyable and one to remember.

Pride Week in Toronto is celebrated over 10 days turning the streets into parades and parking lots into parties. The gay community of Toronto offers some of the best in arts and cultural programming, community activities, and of course one of the world’s largest Pride Parade on the Sunday of that weekend. Don't ever miss the Dyke March that takes place on the Saturday on that weekend, but the best treat on my trip was seeing Cindy Lauper who took center stage at Queen’s Park. This concert was free, and Ms Lauper entertained thousands of people as she performed her cheery “True Colors” hit.

Toronto offers a lot more than just the festival. The city is also famed for good restaurants, museums and many galleries. If shopping is on your list, then a visit to the neighborhood of Yorkville is a must.  Located north of the gay village, Yorkville is the best place for shopping. It has many designer shops, terrific boutiques, and many outdoor restaurants. A visit to one of my favorite museums The Royal Ontario is a must. The Royal Ontario is the home of the biggest dinosaurs collection in north America, as well as to other exhibits that present years of diverse culture.

Toronto has many great hotels, and accommodation that can suite all types of travelers and budgets. Finding the right place will not be a problem at all. I stayed at the Cosmopolitan Hotel on 8 Colborne Street, in downtown Toronto. For reservations call 1.800.958.3488.

One of the best conveniences of staying at the Cosmopolitan Hotel is the proximity to Porters Airlines  airport. Flying to Toronto with Porters Airlines will be the best decision you will make for this trip. Located in downtown Toronto the airport is only five minutes from the hotel. Porters’ approach is revolutionary and they offer one of the best experiences for air travelers today. With a coach ticket you get all the privileges of business class at no additional cost, So if you have a chance to fly it, don’t hesitate for a second.

The 31st Toronto Pride Week will take place from Friday June 24, to Sunday July 3, 2011. For more information visit www.pridetoronto.com and www.seetorontonow

Your chance to win A FREE TRIP TO TORONTO FOR TWO. Airfare by Porter Airlines, and two night accommodations at the Sheraton Hotel will be included. Courtesy of OntarioTourism. To enter this sweepstake you must ‘Like Us' on Facebook  and 'Follow Us' on TwitterLast day to enter is May 26, 2011. Winners will be notified by e-mail on Friday, May 27, 2011.
 
 
Thursday, April 14th, 2011
Keynote Competitive Research, the industry analysis research group announced the results of Industry Study examining U.S. Hotel Reservation Websites. In the 2011 U.S. Hotel Reservation Sites study, Hotels.com took first place for Best Overall Customer Experience and Marriott.com came in first for Best Overall Technical Quality for their websites.  

Key findings include: Hotels.com, Expedia, and Orbitz are the top-tier sites for Conversion. Tor Customer Satisfaction it is the Hilton Hotels. Hotels.com is considered the most “convenient” and “friendly,” while Expedia is the most “helpful.” Hotels.com is deemed most “flexible & accommodating to customer requests," and Orbitz is considered the most “fun.”

“Based on our analysts’ observations and interviews with our panel of actual users, the study of US hotel reservation websites revealed that when booking hotel reservations online trust, security, customer support and the booking process are the top determining factors of a positive customer experience,” said Christopher Musto, general manager of Keynote.

In addition to evaluating customer experience with its panel of actual users, the study also examined two broad aspects of technical quality: responsiveness and reliability. Based on the thousands of transactions monitored over the course of the study, Marriott.com is ranked first in All Overall Technical Quality. In the two components of ‘Technical Quality,’ Sheraton set the standard for responsiveness (or speed), while Marriott led the group in reliability and was third in responsiveness.

Source: Press release from Keynote Competitive Research.
 
 
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Friday, February 25th, 2011
photos and story by Ed Walsh

Torremolinos, one of the many famed municipalities composing Spain’s autonomous “sunny coast” community of Andalusia, may be the gayest city you never heard of. Located on the southwest corner of the country, this city has more than three dozen gay bars and nightclubs. Locals claim Torremolinos has the most gay venues of any Spanish city outside of Madrid and Barcelona. This gay playground is also the only town in Europe with a major airport. The Malaga, the third busiest airport in Spain, is just 10 minutes away from the heart of Torremolinos.
This area’s always-abounding nightlife is comparable to Costa del Sol’s annual climate, which averages 324 days of sunshine per year. Mild winters, warm springs, warm falls and hot summers complement this paradise known for being a major destination of the rich and famous.

MALAGA 
The first stop for most visitors to Costa de Sol is Malaga. With a population of nearly 600,000, it is the largest city in the region and best known as the birthplace of Spain’s most acclaimed artist Pablo Picasso. Packed with the prolific painter’s works, the Museo La Casa Picasso is one of the most visited attractions on the coast. Malaga’s Cathedral is known best for having just one steeple. After 250 years, the construction ended in 1782. The second steeple was never completed, but today Malagans are happy with their distinctive landmark nonetheless.

MARBELLA AND PUERTO BANÚS
What began as a small fishing village in the 1940’s, Marbella since blossomed into one of the most popular resort destinations of the international jet set. The super-rich lifestlyes of which are clearly evoked in neighboring Puerto Banús, where an ultra-chic array of shops showcase wares on par with that of the multimillion-dollar yachts docked in the adjacent luxury marina.
However, the Old Town distrcict is wonderful window into Marbella’s less extravagent past. With narrow streets and white buildings, designed to minimize the sun and the heat during the hot summer months this old city is a great palce to spend a  few hours in the early evening.
For gourmet food, and one of the best restaurants in Costa del Sol, make a reservation at La Meridiana. Regarded as Marbella’s finest dining, the restaurant is set in a Moorish/Arabian style building surrounded by a garden and a decorative pool. This eatery offers outstaning dishes all prepared with the freshest local ingredients available.

RONDA AND MIJAS
Ronda is another Costa del Sol treasure not to be missed. It is one of Spain’s oldest towns. It is on a mountainside nearly 2500 feet above sea level and has a population of 40,000. It takes about 45 minutes to drive the winding road into town from Torremolinos. The views along the way are of spectacular– white Andalucían villages, the signature of this region. The town’s emblematic symbol is the bridge over the gorge that separates the two sides of the city. (It is a mini-version of the Grand Canyon).
Eleven miles west of Torremolinos, the charming city of Mijas lies in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Known for its Sunday Bullfights, this town has the best and most spectacular views of the coast. A visit to the Mijas Wine Museum will reveal the wine history of the region. A quick stop at the historic circa building from1839 for tapas and drinks is recommended.

WHAT TO SEE
Travelers opting to tour the coast via a morning Mediterrranean sailboat cruise, will not only be afforded breathtaking views of The Rock of Gibralter (on a clear day), but may also find themselves making port in a different culture on a different continent. Being able to reach Morocco in under an hour, visitors can spend the day sight-seeing in Casablanca—the city where Bogart’s Blaine told Berman’s Lund, “Here’s looking at you, Kid.”— and make it back to Spain in time for dinner.

WHERE TO STAY
Located in the heart of Malaga, minutes away from the city’s gay nightlife, Room Mate Lola Hotel is a good place to hang your sombrero. It is also Spain’s first gay-friendly hotel chain.
The Marbella Club Hotel and the Hotel Puente Romano are among the finest resort hotels in Europe. They are situated along the “Golden Mile” of Marbella, between the Old Town and Puerto Banús. Unlike most European hotels, the rooms are quite spacious and most include balconies or patios overlooking the ocean. Amenities include tennis courts, pools, a gym and aspa. Rates starts at $200.
If you really want to splurge, stay at the Villa Padierna Hotel, part of the Ritz-Carton chain. Rates start at $280. Fifteen minutes from downtown Marbella, the Melia La Quinta Hotel offers luxury stay at bargain rates. Starting at $144 per night, this gay-friendly eatable; isment is one of the best deals in town. For about $40 more, guests get two hours in the spa plus lunch.
Located next to gorge’s arched bridge, the Paradore Hotel in Ronda is one of the best in the Paradores chain. Rates run from $175 per night. Guests can save some dinero by staying at the Hostal Guadalupe in Torremolinos. Rates start at just $45, and it’s the only gay hotel in Costa del Sol.

GAY NIGHTLIFE 
With more than two dozen gay bars, nightclubs and a few saunas, the gay village known as Nogalera claims controll over 80% of Torremolinos’ nightlife. Everything here gets moving after 1a.m., and Home nightclub is the hotest spot in town. For those looking to get frisky, an expansive dark room is on site. Another late-night mega club is Passion, with room for over 2,000 club goers. The early set can check out El Gato Lounge, which opens at 7 p.m. and touts the “biggest gay terrace” in Torremolinos.Café El Atrio opens daily at 8 p.m and is mixed with gay guys and girls. Bear bar Bacchus is open daily from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Anfora is the lesbian place to be, only on weekends from 10 p.m.- 2:30 a.m. Malaga also supports active gay life. The Elarmen bar is busy earlier in the evening. It attracts mostly gay men and some lesbians. The Reinas bar hosts a late-night, gay-male crowd and it’s open all night.

GAY BEACHES
There are three gay beaches in Costa del Sol. The most popular is Cabopino Beach. It’s in a nature reserve, near the five-star Don Carlos Hotel between Marbella and Calahonda. Gays tend to hang out in the far end of the clothing-optional beach below bushes overlooking the shore that attract an adventurous crowd. The Poseidon Beach is a nude beach, about a 15-minute’s drive from Cabopino Beach and right in the center of town. The Guadalmar Beach is located between Torremolinos and Malaga. It is also clothing-optional. Overall, Cabopino has an older crowd. The crowd tends to skew younger at Poseidon and Guadalmar tends to be more mixed.

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